"What is your name?" the man asked. "Jacob," he replied.
1. The prayer of faith.
2. The prayer of importunity.
3. The prayer of intense desire. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. Bless me for myself, bless me for my family, bless me for the world. But Jacob was a type of the true Prince of God prevailing for his people. He wrestled, he wrestled alone, he wrestled to his own suffering and humiliation, although into victory. He obtained the blessing as the Mediator. Although the patriarch was not allowed to know the name of the angel, he was himself named by the angel. Although we cannot with all our searching find out God, and even the revelation of Christ leaves much unknown, still we are "known of him." He gives us one name, and by that name we know him to be ours, which is the true saving knowledge. Peniel, the face of God, is the name not of God himself, but of the blessed revelation of God. We know where we may find him. We may each one start afresh from our Peniel, where we have been blessed of God, and have through Christ prevailed against the dark- ness of the future and the helplessness of our own impotence. Nor must we forget that this wrestling was reconciliation - the reconciliation between man and God, preceding the reconciliation between man and mare The lameness of the patriarch symbolized the life of dependence upon which he henceforth entered with much more entire surrender than before. "As the sun rose upon him, he halted upon his thigh." It was the morning of a new life - the life of man's confessed nothingness and God's manifested sufficiency. In such a light we can see light. The day may have dangers in it, but it will be a day of mighty deliverance, Divine blessedness, rejoicing in personal salvation and peaceful life. - R.
I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.I. He was thoroughly in earnest; he wrestled till he got the blessing.
II. If we wish to gain a blessing like Jacob's, we must be alone with God. It is possible to be alone with God, even in the midst of a multitude.
III. Jacob's heart was hardened with a load of sin. It crushed his spirit, and was breaking his heart. He could bear it no more, and so he made supplication. He wanted to be lifted out of his weakness, and made a new man.
IV. in the moment of his weakness, Jacob made a great discovery. He found that when we cannot wrestle we can cling.
V. He received the blessing wrestled for as soon as he became content to accept it as God's free gift.
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
1. The soul is absorbed in the awful loneliness of its own thought. "Jacob was left alone." So is every one in similar experiences. In times of agony, friendly sympathy seems distant and ineffectual. We are even impatient with well-meant words of kindness. Then comes a sense of powerlessness. The afflicted one has done all he can, and now can only wait. At this juncture he begins to ask himself as to the cause of his misery. Why is he thus situated? Perhaps, like Jacob, he recognizes his sorrows as the lineal descendants of some former sin; or more likely, he now perceives, as never before, the general fact of his sinfulness, his imperfections as a Christian, and his failure to enjoy religious privileges.
2. Just here the soul is arrested by God's presence. Abstracted from the world, because grief has made him indifferent to worldly thoughts, the Christian can now see God and feel His power. We can imagine Jacob, in his conflict of emotion, standing in the darkness by the brook Jabbok, lost in thought, when suddenly a heavy hand is laid upon his shoulder. He turns to find a mysterious Presence of terrible reality and power. That Presence he speedily recognizes as God. So now every storm-racked heart is introduced by conscience to its God.
3. In such times of trial, the soul at first finds God a seeming foe. Jacob at first was obliged to defend himself against his mysterious adversary. Who can tell what fearful surmises came over him as he wrestled in the dark with his terrible opponent? Can this be Esau? No; this is a superhuman strength. Can this be God? It surely is none else; but why does He meet me thus? God hedges men in to bring them to His feet, to show them themselves, to prevent prosperity from injuring them, very likely to prepare them for it, to purify them from remaining sin, frequently to fit them for some great work. We must pass through the furnace before we are what we should be.
II. THE RELIEF OF THE SOUL.
1. The narrative discloses the human means of securing this relief, namely, prayer.
2. The narrative sets before us the Divine methods of giving relief to the soul.
(1) (2) (3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
(2) (3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
(3) 3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle. (A. P. Foster.)
3. The narrative indicates the safeguard of the soul in this secured relief. Jacob, though his troubles were now passed, yet halted on his thigh, and doubtless limped through life. He carried from that place of conflict and triumph a reminder of his dependence. He had then, ever after, a sense of his weakness, and could say with Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong." There is danger, after meeting God face to face and securing His favour, of undue elation. Even Paul, with all his saintliness, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure. We may forget that every successful struggle with sin or attainment in piety is due solely to the Divine help. For this reason, doubtless, God has established a universal law in life. We cannot pass through a terrible experience like Jacob's without bearing the scars of battle.
(A. P. Foster.)
The Study.1. It was a prayer that by living faith took firm hold upon God. He came to God, not as one far off, but close at hand; not merely on the throne, but present in all the affairs of daily life. He comes to Him as the God of his fathers, the God of the covenant. He at once lays hold of the Divine faithfulness. As much as any one thing, we need to-day this sense of God as ever present to be a restraining power in business life. Like the patriarch, every believing soul must draw nigh to God, reverently, it is true, but not timidly or distrustfully. The command is to "come boldly to a throne of grace." We must come not as though we more than half questioned whether there is any God, or, if there be, whether He cares anything about us, and will hear our prayer; but with all the heart believing "that He is, and is the Rewarder of those that diligently seek Him."
2. Jacob did not offer a hasty prayer for safety merely in general terms, and then go about his worldly business with all the intensity of his nature. His need was urgent, was deeply felt; and he found time enough to press it before God. The whole night was none too long for his business with God.
3. Wrestling, Jacob came to a point where he was powerless. All he could do was to hold fast to God. God never takes from any of His children their power to do this. Every other refuge may be swept away, but they can cling still.
4. Jacob's prayer was direct and simple. He asked for just what he wanted, then stopped.
(The Study.)I. THE OBJECTS OF JACOB'S PRAYER; or, the blessings implored. It need not be disguised that one of these was the preservation of his own life, and the safety of his family and substance. It would be doing Jacob injustice, however, to deny that higher objects than the preservation of himself, and of his family and substance, occupied his thoughts and prayers on this critical occasion. The very circumstances in which he was placed were calculated to call his sins to remembrance; just as his sons were reminded of their unnatural and criminal conduct towards Joseph, by being thereby involved in difficulties in Egypt many long years after their sin had been committed. Jacob being reminded of the falsehood and deceit by which he had provoked the anger and vengeance of his brother, would humbly confess his sin and earnestly pray for the salvation of his soul, whatever might be the fate of his body at this time. Knowing that the souls of his family were as precious as his own, and remembering the relation in which he stood to them, and the duty that he owed them, he would be very importunate in prayer for their salvation also, though they should fall by the sword of Esau. But he would not despair of their preservation. He would remember the covenant of God with his father Abraham, and the promise that He would make of him a great nation, and that in his seed, which is Christ, all the families of the earth would be blessed. He would pray that he and his family might live to be witnesses for God in a world lying in wickedness, and might introduce the spiritual seed, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE DUTY SHOULD BE PERFORMED.
1. Jacob sought retirement for devotion.
2. Jacob spent a long time in prayer.
3. We must implore lawful things, and employ proper arguments to attain them.
4. We ought to be earnest and persevering in prayer.
5. We should pray in faith and hope.
III. THE ANSWER WHICH JACOB OBTAINED TO HIS PRAYERS. God blessed him there. He obtained a gracious answer.
(R. Smith, D. D.)I. EXPLAIN THIS HOLY WRESTLING IN PRAYER. Wrestling implies some resistance to be overcome. Some of the chief obstructions which must be overcome are —
1. A sense of guilt whelming the soul.
2. A frowning Providence discouraging the mind.
3. Unbelieving thoughts and inward temptations.
4. Coldness and slothfulness of the heart.
5. Discouragement through Divine delays.
II. THE REASONABLENESS OF IMPORTUNITY IN PRAYING.
1. It strengthens in our minds a sense of God's glory.
2. Our unworthiness vindicates it.
3. The inestimable value of the blessings to be obtained requires it.
III. ITS ADVANTAGES.
1. It prepares for blessings in many cases: it is itself the actual possession of them.
2. It has the promises of success.
3. Memorable examples confirm its worth.
1. How many have cause to mourn their lack of this spirit!
2. Its absence is one cause of the low state of religion.
3. As you would persevere in prayer, be watchful and circumspect, observe the course of Providence, be much in intercession for others.
(Dr. J. Wotherspoon.)
(T. M. Rees.)
1. Who was that personage that appeared to Jacob, and wrestled with him? The narrative calls him a man; but all interpreters are agreed, that by this is meant some one in the form of a man. Was it, then, a created angel? or, was it God Himself? We think the latter; because, though He is called an angel, Jacob paid Him Divine homage. Again, because the inspired prophet, referring to this event, says that Jacob had power with God. And again, because Jacob himself said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Once more, because the patriarch appeals to Him in our text for a blessing, which he could hardly look for from any being but God. There is another point to which I would direct your attention, viz., that this angel was not merely God, but God the Son, who in this, and in many other instances, anticipated His Incarnation, by appearing in the form and fashion of a man. With whom should Jacob wrestle to obtain pardon for his sin, and deliverance from its just consequences, but with the appointed Mediator, who should make atonement, and then enter into the heaven of heavens, there to appear in the presence of God for us?
2. What was this wrestling? Was it spiritual, or corporeal, or both? There are a few interpreters, and but a few, who think it was purely spiritual; and that there was no bodily conflict at all, but that it was illusive and imaginary. It is said distinctly, "There wrestled a Man with him"; and that Man, when the conflict had lasted long, says, "Let me go, for the day breaketh." Finally, he touched Jacob's thigh upon the sinew that shrank, so that he went halting to the end of his days. All these are strong marks of reality, which go far to prove that the outward form of this conflict was corporeal. Yet, beyond all question, it was connected with a mental and spiritual wrestling with God in prayer. The outward was a sign and picture of the inward strife; and Jacob to this day is an image of every saint who prevails with God by the holy boldness, earnest opportunity, and untiring perseverance of His supplications.
3. Why did this wrestling take place? what was its great end? With respect to Jacob himself, it signified that he should overcome the hatred of his brother Esau; for what has he to fear from man, who, as a prince, hath power with God? With respect to ourselves, and to the Church generally, we may consider this scene as descriptive pictorially, not of Jacob's condition only, but of all the saints with him. They are all wrestlers, by their very calling; wrestlers with affliction, with temptation, with outward and with inward, with carnal and with spiritual enemies: yet, in the strength of God, they shall all overcome. Wrestlers with God; that is, men of prayer. Now, we take our text as exemplifying to us this one subject, boldness in prayer: "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." Now, there are two reflections that, in a manner, force themselves upon our notice. One is, that God never violently withdraws Himself from a praying man. His trial of our faith and importunity never stretch beyond this, "Let me go, if Thou canst consent"; and, even when the trial proceeds so far, it is only done to provoke a refusal. It was obviously not the Divine intention to send Jacob away unblessed, but to elicit this proof of his determination. The other reflection is consequent upon it; namely, that when God withdraws from any man, it is always with his own consent. He must be willing to give up the point before he loses his advantage. No man can fail to obtain everything that he really needs, and everything that God has promised, unless he himself voluntarily draws back and yields; otherwise, God consents to be overcome by prayer. This is the great comfort of every sinner, and of every saint.
I. Consider WHAT KIND OF BOLDNESS IT IS THAT GOD APPROVES, NEGATIVELY AND POSITIVELY.
1. God does not approve the boldness which is grounded on self-righteous principles: it must, therefore, be connected with a deep sense of guilt and unworthiness (ver. 10).
2. God does not approve that boldness which loses sight of His own awful majesty and holiness. Boldness must be associated with reverence and godly fear, to be acceptable. What! can God's condescension and love give an unworthy creature the smallest ground to forget his own unworthiness, and the infinitude of Him with whom he has to do? On the contrary, it should deepen his sense of his own meanness, and increase his adoration.But let us come more particularly to the question.
1. God approves that boldness which surmounts all the doubts and fears adapted to obstruct our freedom of access to Him. There are improper fears, and a sinful diffidence opposed to the exercise of prayer. When, for instance, a sense of guilt and unworthiness leads us to suspect that God will not hear us, will not forgive; this is a sign of faint-heartedness, not of humility. It is a sentiment directly contrary to His revealed will. Now, Jacob might have been restrained by similar considerations. He might have thought of all his sins.
2. God approves that boldness in prayer which is evinced by the largeness of its desires. He is not honoured by feeble desires and limited supplications. His promises are most ample, and various in the benefits which they convey.
3. God approves that boldness which is importunate, and will take no denial. It is often necessary that a blessing be withheld for a season, in order that its full value may be realized. Moreover, this is an important test of sincerity. Coldness and languor are repulsed and betrayed. Genuine devotion believes the word, and will not consent to go empty away. Formality is satisfied without the blessing, when conscience is appeased by the performance of the duty. The true worshipper cannot rest in outward services if the blessing be not given.
II. Let us take notice of one or TWO CONSIDERATIONS WHICH NOT MERELY JUSTIFY THIS BOLDNESS, BUT GO FAR TO PROVE IT INDISPENSABLE.
1. The urgency of our wants. The fervency of prayer should be regulated by our condition. It is evident that the secret of Jacob's importunity was the pressing circumstances in which he felt himself to be placed. His was a kind of desperation, inspired by the extremity of his danger.
2. The importance of the blessing. We plead not merely for well-being, we plead for life; life, not of the body, hut of the soul. If we do not prevail we are lost.
3. The absolute certainty of its prevalence. There will be timidity in asking, wherever there exists a doubt of obtaining. Thine own word is my warrant, when I answer, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me."IN CONCLUSION, the subject is adapted to impress upon our minds these two points of instruction: the quality of prayer, and the power of prayer.
1. Boldness is an essential characteristic of prayer. This may be made clear by barely mentioning the defects and infirmities to which it is opposed. Can there be sincerity and acceptableness where there is a want of sensibility and zeal, where low views are entertained of the kindness and grace of God, and where the suppliant is ready to withdraw from the mercy-seat without the blessing, at the least discouragement or delay?
2. Observe exemplified the power of prayer. "I said not unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye Me in vain!"
1. That he had brought these difficulties upon himself. Conscience now accused him of his crime with the same vehemence as if it had been committed only yesterday. Ah! this is a solemn fact in connection with certain sins which we rashly perpetrate! Painful indeed was Jacob's reflection now upon the past. Had he conducted himself as a straightforward man in his youth, he might have avoided his present trouble. How he wished he could have commenced life again! Even in old age men are doomed to possess the sins of their youth, to reap the inevitable consequences of early aberrations.
2. That others beside himself shared in the impending danger. He is now the head of a family; he has wives and children whom he passionately loves; they are in danger of being put to death on the morrow by his furious brother; and his conscience reproaches him with being the cause of their misery. Surely this was the keenest pang of all — the bitterest ingredient in his cup of bitterness. Such is human life. Say not that children are never punished for the transgressions of their parents; reason not concerning the injustice of such an arrangement; the hard fact continually stares us in the face, and warns us at every step to beware, to take heed to ourselves, to be prudent in our conduct, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of others, whom we may unwittingly injure. "And Jacob was left alone." It is when you are alone with the powers of nature-powers whose existence speaks of a higher Power, which sustains them all — that the light of Heaven is most likely to flash upon your soul. It was when banished to the isle of Patmos that John saw the glorious visions recorded in the Book of Revelation; it was when imprisoned in Bedford goal that Bunyan dreamed his Pilgrim's Progress; it was when shut up in total darkness that Milton sang his Paradise Lost. We are taught here that —
I. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF THE PRESENCE OF A PERSONAL GOD. It is stated that "there wrestled a man with Jacob until the breaking of the day." God is not an abstract idea of the mind; is not the natural powers by which we are surrounded; for He has a personal existence. God is a person, and as such, men in all ages have desired to know Him; to commune with Him, to call upon Him in distress. It is when we pray, however, that this fact forces itself most vividly upon our minds. It may be said, therefore, that true prayer can never be uttered where the presence of a personal God does not inspire the soul. You must feel, like Jacob, that there is a Parson with you, standing at your side, listening to your cry; for otherwise it will not be prayer, but a form — it will not be an outpouring of the heart, but a meaningless performance.
II. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME DIFFICULTIES. The experience of formidable opposition in drawing near to God is by no means uncommon. The repelling power with which Jacob struggled on this occasion, has been encountered by almost every suppliant at the throne of grace. Indeed, our Lord seemed anxious to prepare the minds of His disciples to expect it. "And He spake a parable unto them for this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint." But our Lord prepared His disciples to expect difficulties in prayer by other means than parables — by His dealings with some who sought temporal favours at His hands. While He sojourned in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, a woman of Canaan came to Him, crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Passing on with perfect unconcern, He feigned not to hear her; for He answered her not a word. She then cried all the more, "Have mercy on me," so that His disciples felt annoyed, and besought Him to send her away. Thus when we encounter difficulties in prayer, when we feel as if God did not hear us, it is because God wishes to. test our faith, and by testing to strengthen it. Consequently, not only do we enjoy God's blessing with greater relish when it comes, but we are also made stronger for His service.
III. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A CHANGE IN OURSELVES, AS A TOKEN OF SUCCESS. It may be that when we are apparently most unsuccessful, we are really most successful. We do not obtain the very thing we seek at the time, but the spiritual strength we acquire in the effort may be infinitely more important than the thing itself. It always happens thus when true, fervent, earnest prayer is sent up from the heart to God; when there is a mighty struggle to obtain a blessing from above, there comes over the soul a change for the better, a visible improvement, a closer resemblance to God's image. Jacob carried in his body ever after a memorial of the wrestling of that night; for "he halted on his thigh." We are reminded here of a beautiful story, told of the celebrated John Elias, the prince of Welsh orators. He addressed on one occasion a meeting presided over by the late Marquis of Anglesey. The marquis, as you know, was lame, having lost a limb in the famous battle of Waterloo. Referring, therefore, to that circumstance, the speaker thrilled his audience by this striking remark, "We have a president here this evening, whose very step as he walks reminds you of his bravery!" So Jacob "halted on his thigh." His limping gait kept in remembrance his wonderful victory with God. A man of prayer is well known as such; there are certain marks which reveal his character; his public performances bear the impress of his private wrestlings. In this transforming, elevating, and invigorating influence of prayer lies the secret of a godly man's strength.
(D. Rowlands, B. A.)Luther was so earnest in his prayers that it used to be said, "He will not be denied." When Scotland was in danger of becoming Popish, John Knox prayed most mightily for its preservation in the true faith. "Give me Scotland," he pleaded, "or I die"; and his prayers have been answered. Epaphras "laboured fervently in prayer." Christ, "being in an agony, prayed the more fervently."
PeopleEsau, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Laban, Penuel, Seir
PlacesEdom, Jabbok River, Jordan River, Mahanaim, Mizpah, Peniel, Penuel, Seir
Outline1. Jacob's vision at Mahanaim.
3. His message to Esau.
6. He is afraid of Esau's coming.
9. He prays for deliverance.
13. He sends a present to Esau, and passes the brook Jabbok.
24. He wrestles with an angel at Peniel, where he is called Israel.
31. He halts.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 32:22-32
1443 revelation, OT
LibraryMahanaim: the Two Camps
And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim' (i.e. Two camps).--GENESIS xxxii. 1, 2. This vision came at a crisis in Jacob's life. He has just left the house of Laban, his father-in-law, where he had lived for many years, and in company with a long caravan, consisting of wives, children, servants, and all his wealth turned into cattle, is journeying back again to Palestine. His road …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Twofold Wrestle --God's with Jacob and Jacob's with God
"And He Said, Let Me Go, for the Day Breaketh. " --Genesis xxxii. 26
Of the Name of God
Gen. xxxi. 11
The Great Shepherd
Explanatory and Biographical
The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly
The Angel of the Lord in the Pentateuch, and the Book of Joshua.
Meditations for the Morning.
St. Malachy's Apostolic Labours, Praises and Miracles.
A Treatise of the Fear of God;
Thirdly, for Thy Actions.
Fragrant Spices from the Mountains of Myrrh. "Thou Art all Fair, My Love; There is no Spot in Thee. " --Song of Solomon iv. 7.
A Believer's Privilege at Death
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